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MIND DE-CODER 43
The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience
LOVE LIVE LIFE + ONE RUNNIN’ FREE
The reason many of the astral wig-outs produced by Japanese psych-rock bands of the early 70’s have a tripped-out free-jazz element to them is that jazz musicians of the day were free to experiment with their sound in true Miles Davies and Sun Ra style in a way that their pop contemporaries weren’t - their popularity in the charts heavily dependent upon rigid restrictions placed upon them by label bosses who knew exactly what sold and didn’t want any of its acts rocking the apple cart with anything so troublesome as artistic growth. When producer Ikuzo Orita was looking for a band to fulfil his vision for a project he wanted to name Love Live Life he looked to jazz musicians to translate the sounds he had in his head. Crucially, he also employed the Japanese equivalent of Tom Jones, Japan’s most popular star of light entertainment Akira Fuse, to front his band (kind of like getting Robbie Williams in to front a version of Primal Scream going through a Sun Ra Arkestra phase), and between them they created one of the all-time classics of far-out Japanese psychedelia, LOVE WILL MAKE A BETTER YOU, released in 1971, and a big favourite of mine here at Mind De-Coder.
BLACK SABBATH SWEET LEAF
If I’m honest, I have to admit that I included this for a joke – the way it comes in off that intro by Robert Gittins for the Classroom Projects album that I’ll feature later on in the show – but it’s a good joke, and as Jim DeRogatis points out in his roundup of psychedelic music from the 1960’s to the 1990’s KALEIDOSCOPE EYES (published 1996), Black Sabbath’s touching and heartfelt ode to marijuana from their 1971 album MASTER OF REALITY, is an absurdly likeable slice of blues rock combined with psychedelic atmosphere (or what came to be known as heavy metal).
MGMT I LOVE YOU TOO, DEATH
MGMT’s third, eponymous, album, released earlier this year, is far too weird to exist on anything other than its own terms, and I think I remember reading once they weren’t even sure that they’d made an album they themselves would actually want to listen to, but there’s no denying that a track like I Love You Too, Death, is mind-bendingly psychedelic and worth the price of admission alone.
MONA AND MARIA VENUS
Acid-folk loveliness from Norwegian duo Mona and Maria, whose debut MY SUN, also released earlier this year, is an album of sun-dappled folk charm and ethereal loveliness, with gorgeous psychedelic flourishes thrown in all over the place. It touches the parts of me that New Mexico reaches; the most unlikely Norwegian album you could possibly imagine
THE LIMIÑANAS AF3458
Current Mind De-Coder faves, French duo The Limiñanas, channelling their inner Velvet Underground on their marvellous 2012 release CRYSTAL ANIS, which combines a kaleidoscopic mix of Serge Gainsbourg, Stereolab and Phil Spector with a vintage production sound that summons up dimly-lit ye-ye influences with a perfect pop sensibility.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES
Speaking of The Velvet Underground, my first thought was to have played Venus In Furs, but it turns out I’ve never entirely got over their allowing it to be used in some advertising campaign for tyres or something a few years back (what on earth was everyone involved in that decision thinking?), so instead, I opted for the magisterial All Tomorrow’s Parties featuring the glacial Nico on vocals, and Andy Warhol’s favourite Velvet Underground track to boot, not that I let that influence me; frankly, he always gave me the willies. Taken from their seminal debut album, 1968’s THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO, of course, I pretty much wore my original vinyl copy of this record out back when I was a 16 year old bedroom fanatic (I ought to have learnt to play guitar at this point, but instead I learnt to make mix tapes instead - funny how things work out). To this day, when I think about never having attended an Exploding Plastic Inevitable show (what with being three at the time and growing up on a council estate in Essex) it still physically pains me – a lack that found no compensation in having watched them perform at a Glastonbury festival one sunny afternoon back in the 90’s which, even at the time, I knew was wrong on so many levels, but what was a boy to do?
STEVE CRADOCK ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS
Anyone expecting lumpen dad-rock from the former Ocean Colour Scene guitarist and Paul Weller cohort (and you would, wouldn’t you?) will be delighted to discover that Cradock’s most recent album TRAVEL WILD – TRAVEL FREE, released earlier this year, is as light as a feather, consisting of a hazy pastoral vibe that takes in early Julian Cope and XTC in a timeless journey into baroque-soaked psychedelia with added bells, organs, celeste and whistles; as exemplified by the dreamy opening track Any Way The Wind Blows. Altogether charming.
SOUNDS AND SILENCE ALLELUIA
This lovely little track can be found on the album CLASSROOM PROJECTS: INCREDIBLE MUSIC MADE BY CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS, released early this year on the semi-legendary Trunk records. It’s a compilation of wondrous music found on LPs released by schools, all recorded between 1959 and 1977 and featuring small primary school choirs or groups singing obscure folk songs to full-blown avant-garde experiments written and performed by children still at secondary or grammar school.
Alleluia originally saw the light of day on the album SOUNDS AND SILENCE, an LP produced in 1969 by John Paynter, a keen advocate of making music available for children in schools, to act as a companion album to his book of the same name. Sadly it’s unclear which school produced this transcendentally lovely choir – the tape variations are their’s, not mine - but I thought it quite lovely, and just the sort of thing to take us into…
THE ROLLING STONES SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL
If you think this version of the Stones classic, Sympathy For The Devil, runs a little faster than you remember then you’re quite right – in 2008 it was discovered the original mix for 1968’s BEGGARS BANQUET was mastered at a slower speed than it was recorded, meaning that for 30 years people were listening to a slightly slower version of these songs with no one at the time appearing to have noticed. I can’t imagine why. 30 years or so later and the remastered version still has the leering menace of what we thought of as the image-defining original.
TEMPLES KEEP IN THE DARK
This is the third single from Temple, released in October and one more jewel in the self-contained universe they seem to be building for themselves. Rather sweetly, they’re taking a traditional approach to things and are drip feeding us single releases on vinyl as they work on their debut album.
Now I’m a big fan of Espers’ vocalist Meg Baird, me; her voice is almost transcendentally pretty and I’ll buy anything if she’s singing on it. However, it cannot be denied that singer-songwriter Greg Weeks’ voice is not without an understated pastoral charm of its own, as demonstrated here on lovely Riding, taken from their debut album ESPERS, released in 2005 – a album of sublime harmonic treats and avant-folk acid wig-outs. Gorgeous.
DJ FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION THE LIGHT PLAYS TRICKS ON YOU UP HERE
DJ Female Convict Scorpion is otherwise known as Josh Pollack, of course (he says knowingly), who also plays with San Francisco based heavy psyche dudes 3 Leafs – as a turntablist, he scratches an entirely different itch, but the results are no less trippy. In fact, they’re often more mesmerizingly psychedelic and off the wall than anything the band he’s in produce. The Light Plays Tricks On You From Up Here was initially taken from his third release, WWZ, a seamless odyssey through sci-fi, zombie themes and quasi-movie soundtracks released in 2010, but I came across it on his sampler release, A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO DJ FEMALE CONVICT SCORPION, which he released in 2012 which you can check out here for free here
SIR PSYCH GOODNIGHT ECHO
Pretty much does what it says on the label – this is a warped melting instrumental that closes the album HELLO ECHO, released earlier this year and dedicated to the art of experimenting with echo and reverb. You can download it for free here
HINTERMASS ARE YOU WATCHING
This absolutely gorgeous track comes to you as part of the Ghost Box Study Series, a series of 10 seven inch singles released on the Ghost Box label, showcasing their artists and other acts aligned to the hauntological aesthetic. Hintermass sees Tim Felton of Seeland (formerly of Broadcast) on vocals and guitar team up with Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle on synthesizer, bass and percussion on STUDY SERIES 5 - THE OPEN SONGBOOK, released in 2011.
I’m on a bit of a Ghost Box roll at the moment – this track, Find Me, is from STUDY SERIES 10 - MESSAGE AND METTHOD, the last in the series and just recently released featuring Ghost Box co-founder Jim Jupp and Spacedog, effectively Sarah Angliss, someone who is becoming increasingly aligned with the Ghost Box penchant for nostalgia, cosmic horror stories, music for schools, library music, English surrealism and the dark side of psychedelia. I love this tuff, I do; it’s what the music in my head sounds like while I’m falling asleep.
To conclude my little trip around some of the highlights of the Ghost Box Study Series, this is from STUDY SERIES 4 FAMILIAR SHAPES AND NOISES, released in 2010, and my favourite of the series, featuring Broadcast and Ghost Box co-founder Julian House who came together so brilliantly for the Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults Of The Radio Age that same year. As part of the Ghost Box aesthetic, all of the covers are designed in-house by House, a graphics designer, and another layer to their creating not so much a record label, but a whole world to explore.
I’ve only just come across English Heretic, but they seem to be influenced by exactly the same sort of thing that inspires Ghost Box’s hauntological pursuits – their task, as they see, it, is to maintain, nurture and care for the psychohistorical environment of England. Rustic Widdershin Dervish (marvellous title, by the way) is taken from their 2005 release THE SACRED GEOGRAPHY OF BRITISH CINEMA and was recorded in the medieval village of Kersey, where the opening scene from the Hammer horror classic Witchfinder General was filmed. In fact, the CD comes with a 16 page English Heretic pocket guide dedicated to the harrowing opening scene of that very film and suggests various walks around the village where one might soak up the psychic atmosphere, as it were. This attention to detail, coupled with what amounts to a manifesto puts them up there with Julian Cope’s Black Sheep, hauntology, Adrian Corker’s accompaniment for THE WAY OF THE MORRIS, The Wickerman soundtrack, The Eccentronic Research Council’s recent album inspired by the Pendle witch trials… and The Memory Band’s most recent album ON THE CHALK (OUR NAVIGATION OF THE LINE OF THE DOWNS) and is to be absolutely celebrated for their exploration of England’s psychic landscape and its fantastic and uncanny realms.
Or The Echo Of Time, I guess, from the brilliant album ECHO, released in 1971 – a timeless, cosmic trip of an album, almost transcendentally epic in a way that only a true Krautrock classic can be, revealing a sprawling inner world to explore as you float away on psychedelic tides of haunting loveliness. It’s that good.
Ah. I was just about to confidently translate Der Vaum for you, only to discover that it might actually be a made up word – which might be just about right, considering the playful spirit in which Faust released THE FAUST TAPES in 1973 without any track-listing at all. How fitting then, that, following the re-release of the album as part of a box set in 2000, and as one of the rare tracks on the album with a name at all, it means nothing. It’s something of a come down track, hidden away towards the end of the album but works perfectly in context with the show, so that’s alright.
This is the version that plays out at the end of Shane Meadow’s triumphant documentary on a reformed Stone Roses – all 14 glorious minutes of it, for which you get about four minutes of song, and ten minutes of John Squire’s guitar wankery which, in this instance, isn’t a criticism. What is a criticism is that they played it in exactly the same way when I had the good fortune to see them in Auckland earlier this year, when I suppose that I was under the impression that I was seeing something spontaneous and unique. Oh well. On the other hand, I was blown away then and filed it away somewhere thinking this was one of those great moments, never to be repeated, that I was fortunate enough to have witnessed – turns out I can more or less re-witness it whenever I want, but that’s no bad thing at all. I thought that you might like to give it a go too.